Following interviews with migrants and refugees in Poland fleeing Belarus after being forced to cross the border, the UN Human Rights Office on Tuesday called on both countries to urgently address the "appalling situation", reports Anadolu Agency.
Belarus has refused to allow officials of the UN Rights Office to visit the border area, office spokeswoman Liz Throssell told a press conference.
While Poland allowed one of its teams to visit the country from November 29 to December 3, Throssell said it was not permitted to enter the restricted Polish border area where the human drama is unfolding. "Those interviewed describe dire conditions on both sides of the border," he said.
The majority claimed that while in Belarus they were beaten or threatened by security forces, who also forced them to cross the border, "instructing them when and where to cross."
The forces prevented people from crossing the border and returning to Minsk, the country's capital, she said.
Several interviewees alleged that Belarusian security forces demanded exorbitant amounts of money for food and water, she said.
"Our team also heard numerous reports of people being immediately and automatically returned to Belarus from Poland, including children and individuals who said they had requested international protection."
Asked about border deaths, Throssell cited an International Organisation for Migration (IOM) figure of 21 deaths along the Belarus-EU border in 2021.
Given the desperate plight of migrants and refugees at the border, the UN Human Rights Office urged both countries to "urgently address this appalling situation."